The Idiom Connection Arm, Hand, Finger Idioms and Quizzes Idioms The Idiom Connection




Arm, Hand and Finger Idioms







Arm, Hand and Finger Idioms

all hands on deck

- everyone must work together because they have a lot of work to do

The captain called for all hands on deck as the storm became stronger and stronger.

all thumbs

- to be awkward and clumsy, to have a difficulty in fixing things or working with one's hands

The man is all thumbs and he can never fix something without making it worse.

arm in arm

- linked together by the arms

The couple walked along the beach arm in arm.

armpit of (somewhere)

- a place that is the ugliest or worst place in a particular area

The small city is the armpit of the country and nobody wants to go there to work.

at hand

- easy to reach, nearby

There were no tools at hand so I could not fix the stove.

at one's fingertips

- within one's reach

I usually have my address book at my fingertips.

at the hands of (someone or something)

- depending on someone or something

We were at the hands of nature as we waited for the storm to end.

bite one's nails

- to bite one's fingernails because you are nervous or anxious

The girl was biting her nails as she waited for the speech contest to begin.

bite the hand that feeds you

- to harm someone who does good things for you

The girl will bite the hand that feeds her if she continues to complain about the help that her parents give her.

bound hand and foot

- to have one's hands and feet tied up

The bank manager was bound hand and foot by the bank robbers.

burn one`s fingers

- to be harmed by something, to suffer the consequences of one's actions

My father burned his fingers in the stock market and he does not want to invest money there again.

by the handful

- by the amount that one can measure in one handful

We were able to pick strawberries by the handful in the small field.

cannot see one's hand in front of one's face

- to be unable to see very far (usually because of darkness or fog)

I could not see my hands in front of my face because of the heavy rain.

catch (someone) red-handed

- to catch someone in the act of doing something wrong or bad

The teacher caught the boys red-handed after they wrote on the school wall.

caught with one's hand in the cookie jar

- to be caught doing something wrong or illegal, to be caught taking something (often money) that one should not take (just like a child could be caught taking cookies from a cookie jar when he or she should not)

The woman was caught with her hand in the cookie jar when we saw her stealing office supplies.

change hands

- to be sold or given to someone else

The small corner store has changed hands many times recently.

close at hand

- within reach, nearby

There were no restaurants close at hand when we decided to go for dinner.

closefisted (with money)

- to not want to spend money, to be stingy with money

My uncle is very closefisted with money.

come away empty-handed

- to return without anything

We came away from the department store empty-handed.

control (someone or something) with an iron fist

- to have strict and complete control over someone or a group of people or an organization

The manager controls the staff with an iron fist.

cost an arm and a leg or cost (someone) an arm and a leg

- to cost much money

My father's new car cost an arm and a leg.
The man's new car cost him an arm and a leg.

cross one`s fingers

- to cross two fingers of one hand to hope or wish for good luck

I crossed my fingers that I would get the job that I had applied for.

cross (someone's) palm with silver

- to give money to someone for a service

We crossed the hotel clerk's palm with silver to get a good room.

dirty one`s hands

- to hurt one's character or reputation, to do a bad or shameful thing

The politician dirtied his hands when he became involved in the land scandal.

dismiss (something) out of hand

- to decide without thinking that you will not accept an idea or argument or plan

The company dismissed the union's offer out of hand.

do (something) by hand

- to do something with one's hands rather than with a machine

The washing machine is broken so we have to do our clothes by hand.

eat out of (someone's) hand

- to do what someone wants you to do

I usually can get my supervisor to eat out of my hand.

elbow (someone) out of (something)

- to force or pressure someone to leave an office or position

The new manager got his new position by elbowing many people out of the way.

everything one can get/lay his or her hands on

- to use everything of a particular type that you can find

We used everything that we could lay our hands on to build the small building.

fall into the wrong hands

- to discover or get something secret or dangerous that may be used in a way that harms people

The government does not want the new weapons to fall into the wrong hands.

(someone's) fingerprints are on (something)

- an action or piece of work is typical of a particular person and they probably were involved in it

The fingerprints of our boss are on the plans to restructure our department.

a firm hand

- strict control of someone or something

The company uses a firm hand in managing their financial resources.

first hand

- by direct personal experience (you can see or experience or learn about something first hand)

We saw the car accident first hand when we were driving down the highway.

fold one's hands

- to bring one's hands together so that they are palm to palm with the fingers interlocking

The students folded their hands and sat quietly on their chairs.

force (someone's) hand

- to force a person to reveal his or her plans or strategies or secrets

Our lawyer forced the opposing lawyer's hand.

from hand to hand

- from one person to another person

We passed the dictionaries from hand to hand until everybody had one.

gain the upper hand (on someone or something)

- to gain a position that is superior or more advantageous than someone or something

The firefighters finally gained the upper hand on the forest fire.

get one's hands on (someone or something)

- to find someone or something (someone or something that may be difficult to find)

I need to get my hands on a new part for my computer printer.

get out of hand

- to become difficult or impossible to control

The party got out of hand so the school authorities decided to tell everyone to go home.

get the upper hand (on someone)

- to get into a position that is superior or more advantageous than someone else

The union was able to get the upper hand on the company.

give one`s right arm for (something)

- to give something of great value for something else

I would give my right arm for a chance to go to Florida with my friend next month.

give (someone) a big hand or give a big hand to/for (someone)

- to clap your hands for a speech or play or performance

The audience gave the musicians a big hand when they finished their performance.

give (someone) a free hand

- to allow someone to do something in the way that they choose

The senior managers give their employees a free hand to make their work schedule.

give (someone) a hand with (something)

- to help someone with something

I gave my friend a hand when he moved into his new apartment.

give (someone or something) the thumbs up

- to be in favor of someone or something

The city gave the music festival organizers the thumbs up for the music festival.

glad hand (someone)

- to give someone a friendly handshake, to give a warm greeting to someone

The politician spent the day glad handing the crowd at the shopping center.

go away empty-handed

- to depart with nothing

The woman went away empty-handed from the job interview.

go hand in hand (with something)

- to be closely related with something so that they must be considered together

The change in school hours goes hand in hand with the new policy regarding class sizes.

grease (someone`s) palm

- to pay a person for something, to bribe someone

We had to grease the palm of the customs agent to get our goods into the country.

green thumb

- a talent for gardening, the ability to make things grow

The man has a green thumb and has a very beautiful garden.

hand in glove (with someone)

- in close cooperation, in a close relationship or agreement

The new company policy goes hand in glove with the new manager.

hand in hand

- holding hands

The young couple walked hand in hand along the beach.

hand over fist

- fast and in large amounts

We have been making money hand over fist in our new store.

hand over hand

- moving one hand after the other

We climbed hand over hand up the side of the wall.

hand-to-hand combat

- fighting with one's hands without weapons

The two soldiers were doing hand-to-hand combat.

(one's) hands are tied

- one is prevented from doing something

My hands are tied at the moment and I cannot help my friend.

hands down

- easily, unopposed

The boy won the election hands down for the position of class president.

hands off (something)

- to leave something alone, to not interfere with something

We took a hands-off approach while dealing with the new employee.

hang on by one's fingernails

- to continue or manage to do something in a difficult situation

The man has much debt and is only hanging on by his fingernails.

have a finger in the pie

- to be involved in something, to have a role in something

The man has a finger in the pie of the new business.

have a free hand (to do something)

- to be granted complete control to do something

The teacher has a free hand to choose new textbooks for the class.

have a hand in (something)

- to be involved in doing something, to play a part in doing something

The school principal has a hand in the new cafeteria rules.

have clean hands

- to not be responsible for a crime, to be guiltless

The man has clean hands regarding the situation with the stolen goods.

have elbow room

- to have enough space

We have much elbow room in our new house.

have one's finger in too many pies

- to be involved in too many things (so you cannot do any of them well)

Our supervisor has her finger in too many pies and she is not able to do her job well.

have one's finger on the pulse

- to be aware of recent changes or developments in a particular situation or activity

Our supervisor has her finger on the pulse and knows what everybody is doing.

have one's hand in the till

- to be stealing money from a company or organization

The sales clerk has had her hand in the till since she first started her job.

have one's hands full with (someone or something)

- to be busy or occupied with someone or something

The woman has her hands full with her three children.

have (someone's) blood on one's hands

- to be responsible for someone's death

The driver has the bicycle rider's blood on his hands.

have (someone) eating out of (the palm of) one's hand

- to have someone willing to do whatever you want him or her to do

The woman has her supervisor eating out of the palm of her hand.

have (something) at one's fingertips

- to have something nearby and ready to use

I usually have a dictionary at my fingertips when I am reading a book.

have (something) in one's hands

- to have control of something or responsibility for something, to possess something

"When I have the documents in my hands, I will call you."

have (something) on one's hands

- to be burdened with something

I do not want to have the responsibility for the party on my hands.

have the upper hand (on someone)

- to have a position that is superior or more advantageous than someone else

My friend had the upper hand in our argument.

have time on one's hands

- to have much free time

I have much time on my hands so I will read a book.

heavy hand (of something)

- the great power that someone or something has over people

The heavy hand of the law is usually able to find people who commit a crime.

high-handed

- disregarding other's feelings, overbearing

The employer took a high-handed approach to the negotiations and they were not successful.

hold (someone's) hand

- to hold the hand of someone

The man held his son's hand as they crossed the street.

hold (someone's) hand

- to help someone in an unfamiliar or frightening situation

The manager had to hold the new employee's hand as the employee learned the new job.

in good hands

- in the safe and able care of someone

The stolen purse was in good hands after the police found it.

in hand

- under control

After several hours the riot police had the problems with the crowd in hand.

in hand

- in one's possession

The man arrived at the airport with much cash in hand.

in safe hands

- under the care of someone or an organization that you can trust and who will help you

The little girl is in safe hands now that she has arrived at her grandmother's house.

in the hands of (someone)

- a person or organization has control over something and decides what will happen

The court decision is now in the hands of the jury.

iron fist in a velvet glove

- kind and gentle on the outside (the velvet glove) but determined and ruthless on the inside (the iron fist)

The government committee used an iron fist in a velvet glove to get the information that they wanted.

itchy/itching palm

- a greedy character, a desire for money or tips

The police officer had an itching palm and received much money from criminals before he was arrested.

join hands

- to hold hands so that one person is holding the hand of another person

The children joined hands as they crossed the road.

keep one's finger's crossed

- to wish for good luck

I will keep my fingers crossed that I get the new job that I applied for.

keep one's finger on the pulse

- to be aware of recent changes or developments in a particular situation or activity

The manager keeps her finger on the pulse of the company and she knows everything.

keep one's hand in (something)

- to retain one's control of something, to continue doing something so that you remain involved in it

The animal trainer is trying to keep his hand in his work even though he has retired.

keep one's hands off (someone or something)

- to refrain from touching or handling someone or something

The man was told to keep his hands off his neighbor's dog.

know (someone or something) like the back/palm of one's hand

- to know someone or something very well

The taxi driver knows the city like the back of his hand.

lay a finger on (someone or something)

- to touch or bother someone or something

The teacher told the students not to lay a finger on the new computer.

lay one's hands on (someone or something)

- to find someone or something (that may be difficult to find)

If I can lay my hands on a screwdriver, I will fix the broken table.

lay the finger on (someone)

- to accuse someone of doing something, to identify someone as the person who did something

The store owner lay the finger on the boy after he stole the toy.

leave (someone or something) in (someone's) hands

- to give someone control of someone or something

I plan to leave the party arrangements in my friend's hands.

lend (someone) a hand or lend a hand to (someone)

- to help someone with something

I will ask my friend to lend me a hand when I move.

lift a finger

- to help as little as possible (usually used in the negative)

My niece will not lift a finger to help anyone.

live from hand to mouth

- to live on very little money

My friend has been living from hand to mouth since he lost his job.

long arm of the law

- the police and laws that are so powerful that no matter where you are you will be found and punished

The long arm of the law finally was able to capture the criminal.

lose one's grip

- to lose control of a situation

The young teacher seems to be losing her grip on the situation in her classroom.

many hands make light work

- a lot of help will make a job seem easy

Many hands make light work and having lots of people to help made the job easy.

near at hand

- easy to reach, nearby

If there is a grocery store near at hand, I will buy some milk.

off one`s hands

- no longer in one's care or possession

I would like to get my old bicycle off my hands so that I can buy a new one.

old hand at (doing something)

- someone who is experienced and very good at doing something

Our boss is an old hand at fixing computers.

on hand

- nearby, available, in one's possession

We did not have a screwdriver on hand so we could not fix the door.

on hand

- present

Our teacher is always on hand when we need someone to help us.

on the one hand

- from one side of an issue, from one point of view

On the one hand I like my supervisor but on the other hand I dislike her a lot.

on the other hand

- from another point of view, from the other side of an issue

I do not want to study tonight but on the other hand, I must study because I have a test tomorrow.

out of hand

- out of control

The party got out of hand so we called the police.

out of hand

- immediately and without consulting anyone, without delay

Our teacher dismissed our excuses out of hand.

palm off (something) or palm (something) off

- to sell or give something away by pretending that it is more valuable than it is

The man palmed off a television set that does not work.

pay an arm and a leg (for something)

- to pay a lot of money for something

We paid an arm and a leg for our new sofa.

pay (someone) a back-handed compliment

- to give someone a false compliment that is actually an insult

The man paid the host of the party a back-handed compliment.

pay (someone) a left-handed compliment

- to give someone a false compliment that is actually an insult

The service at the store was poor so the customer paid the clerk a left-handed compliment.

play into (someone`s) hands

- to do something that another person can use against you or can use to his or her advantage

If you become angry at someone, it will only play into his or her hands.

point the finger (of blame) at (someone)

- to blame someone for doing something wrong, to identify someone as being guilty

The waitress pointed the finger of blame at the cook during the police investigation.

put one's finger on (something)

- to locate something precisely, to identify something as very important

I was able to put my finger on the problem and find someone to fix it.

put one's hand to the plow

- to begin to do a big and important task

I put my hand to the plow in order to finish my essay before the weekend.

put one's hands on (something)

- to locate and acquire something

I have not been able to put my hands on a good cookbook yet.

put the finger on (someone)

- to accuse someone of doing something, to identify someone as the person who did something

The police put the finger on the young man as the main suspect for the crime.

putty in (someone's) hands

- very willing to do what someone else thinks or wants

The woman is putty in our hands and we can get everything that we want from her.

raise a hand

- to do something, to do one's share, to help

I am angry at my friend because he did not raise a hand to help me clean the kitchen.

raise a hand against (someone or something)

- to threaten to strike someone or something

The teacher never raises a hand against her students.

rap (someone's) knuckles

- to punish someone slightly

The judge decided to rap the young boy's knuckles for his crime.

read the handwriting on the wall

- to guess or anticipate what will happen by observing small hints and clues

I have read the handwriting on the wall and I believe that soon I will not have a job.

receive (someone) with open arms

- to greet someone eagerly

The employees received their new boss with open arms.

reject (something) out of hand

- to decide without thinking not to accept an idea or argument or plan

The company rejected the union's demands out of hand.

the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing

- there is not good communication in an organization so one part of the organization does not know what the other part is doing

The assistant manager knows nothing about what the manager is doing in the company. It seems that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.

rub elbows (with someone)

- to work closely with someone, to associate with someone

I have been rubbing elbows with some very interesting people at work recently.

rub shoulders with (someone)

- to work closely with someone, to associate with someone

The sales manager rubs shoulders with some of the top business people in the city.

rule of thumb

- a basic or accepted pattern or rule

It is a rule of thumb in our company that senior managers get bigger offices.

rule (someone) with an iron fist

- to have strict and complete control over a person or a group of people

The leader of the small country rules the citizens with an iron fist.

shake hands on (something)

- to shake someone's hand as a sign of agreement about something

The politicians shook hands on the agreement to build a new hospital.

shake hands with (someone)

- to greet someone by taking his or her hand and shaking it

The two men shook hands when they met for the first time.

a shot in the arm

- something inspiring, something that gives someone energy

The latest opinion polls are a shot in the arm for the mayor's re-election campaign.

a show of hands

- a vote for something which is done by people raising their hands

The students voted by a show of hands to go to the park after school.

show one's hand

- to reveal one's intentions to someone

I tried hard not to show my hand during the meeting about my new job.

sit on one's hands

- to do nothing, to fail to help

Our supervisor sat on his hands and refused to help us with our problem.

sit on their hands

- an audience refuses to applaud

The members of the audience sat on their hands after the performance by the singer.

a slap on the wrist

- a light punishment for doing something wrong

The young man received a slap on the wrist for his crime.

slip through (someone's) fingers

- to get away from someone, to lose track of someone or something

The job opportunity slipped through my fingers which was very disappointing.
The sales receipt slipped through my fingers and I could not find it.

stick out like a sore thumb

- to be obvious and visible

The man sticks out like a sore thumb when he wears his orange hat.

sticky fingers

- the habit of stealing things

The new woman at work has sticky fingers and is stealing things from her office.

take a hand in (something)

- to help plan or do something

The man will take a hand in designing the new building.

take (someone or something) in hand

- to take control of a situation and improve it or deal with it

Our teacher took the situation in hand when the class became too noisy.

take (someone or something) off (someone's) hands

- to remove or look after someone or something so that the other person does not have to deal with it

My friend decided to take our old sofa off my hands.
The girl took the child off the mother's hands for the afternoon.

take the law into one's own hands

- to act as a judge and jury for someone who has done something wrong

The soldiers took the law into their own hands when they entered the town.

throw one's hands up in horror

- to be shocked, to raise one's hands in fright

The girl threw her hands up in horror when she saw the injured dog.

thumb a lift/ride

- to get a ride from a passing motorist, to ask for a ride from a passing motorist by putting your thumb in the air

We thumbed a ride when our car had a flat tire.

thumb through (something)

- to look quickly through a book or magazine or newspaper

I thumbed through the garden catalogue at the store.

thumbnail sketch

- a short or small picture or description

The police made a thumbnail sketch of the bank robber.

thumbs up on (someone or something)

- to be in favor of someone or something

I waited to hear if it would be thumbs up on our new policy at work.

tie (someone's) hands

- to prevent someone from doing something

The principal tied our hands and we were not able to start the project.
Our hands were tied and we could do nothing about the problem.

tightfisted (with money)

- to not want to spend money, to be stingy with money

My friend is very tightfisted with money and he never likes to buy anything.

throw up one`s hands (in despair or frustration)

- to stop trying, to admit that one cannot succeed

I threw up my hands in frustration when I was unable to find the manager.

try one`s hand at (something)

- to make an inexperienced attempt at something, to try something

I tried my hand at golf last summer but I did not like it.

turn one's hand to (something)

- to start to do something that is different from what you usually do

After we finished cleaning the kitchen we turned our hand to the other rooms.

turn thumbs down on (something)

- to disapprove or reject something, to say no to something

The building committee turned thumbs down on our plans to change the office.

twiddle one`s thumbs

- to do nothing, to be idle

The girl twiddled her thumbs all week and was not able to pass her exam.

twist (someone`s) arm

- to force someone to do something, to threaten someone in order to make him or her do something

I had to twist my friend's arm so that he would let me use his car.

under one`s thumb

- to be obedient to someone, to be controlled by someone

The woman has her husband under her thumb. He has no freedom at all.

up in arms

- very angry and wanting to fight, equipped with guns or weapons and ready to fight

The students were up in arms over the school's plan to make them wear uniforms.

use some elbow grease

- to use some effort, to work hard to do something

The kitchen could use some elbow grease to make it clean again.

walk arm-in-arm (with someone)

- to walk with one's arms linked with someone else

The two girls walked arm-in-arm down the street.

walk hand-in-hand (with someone)

- to walk while holding hands with someone

The couple walked hand-to-hand down the street.

wash one`s hands of (someone or something)

- to refuse to be responsible for something, to refuse to be involved with something, to stop one's association with someone

I want to wash my hands of the problems with the new secretary.

welcome (someone) with open arms

- to greet someone eagerly or warmly

We welcomed the new teacher with open arms.

win (something) hands down

- win something easily, win something without a doubt

The new mayor won the election hands down.

with both hands tied behind one's back

- easily, even under a severe handicap

I did my science project with both hands tied behind my back.

with hat in hand

- with humility

The boy went to his father with hat in hand to ask for some money.

with one hand tied behind one's back

- easily, even under a severe handicap

The project was hard to manage because I had to operate with one hand tied behind my back.

with open arms

- warmly, eagerly, happily

The author was welcomed with open arms during his visit.

work hand in hand (with someone)

- to work closely together with someone

The school is working hand in hand with the police department in order to solve the road problems.

work one`s fingers to the bone

- to work very hard

The woman worked her fingers to the bone in order to make enough money to feed her children.

wrap (someone) around one`s little finger

- to have complete control over someone, to manipulate someone

The woman has her boss wrapped around her little finger and she can do anything that she wants.

wring one's hands

- to worry and be upset about something and not be able to do anything about it

The woman stayed up most of the night wringing her hands while she waited for her son to come home.

wring (someone's) hand

- to hold someone's hand tightly when you greet or say good-bye to him or her

The man stood wringing my hand when I met him.

you've got to hand it to (someone)

- someone has done something well (although you may not approve of the things that he or she has done)

"You've got to hand it to our friend. He is always able to raise enough money for his projects."


Arm Idioms


arm in arm

- linked together by the arms

The couple walked along the beach arm in arm.

armpit of (somewhere)

- a place that is the ugliest or worst place in a particular area

The small city is the armpit of the country and nobody wants to go there to work.

cost an arm and a leg or cost (someone) an arm and a leg

- to cost much money

My father's new car cost an arm and a leg.
The man's new car cost him an arm and a leg.

give one`s right arm for (something)

- to give something of great value for something else

I would give my right arm for a chance to go to Florida with my friend next month.

long arm of the law

- the police and laws that are so powerful that no matter where you are you will be found and punished

The long arm of the law finally was able to capture the criminal.

pay an arm and a leg (for something)

- to pay a lot of money for something

We paid an arm and a leg for our new sofa.

receive (someone) with open arms

- to greet someone eagerly

The employees received their new boss with open arms.

a shot in the arm

- something inspiring, something that gives someone energy

The latest opinion polls are a shot in the arm for the mayor's re-election campaign.

twist (someone`s) arm

- to force someone to do something, to threaten someone in order to make him or her do something

I had to twist my friend's arm so that he would let me use his car.

up in arms

- very angry and wanting to fight, equipped with guns or weapons and ready to fight

The students were up in arms over the school's plan to make them wear uniforms.

walk arm-in-arm (with someone)

- to walk with one's arms linked with someone else

The two girls walked arm-in-arm down the street.

welcome (someone) with open arms

- to greet someone eagerly or warmly

We welcomed the new teacher with open arms.

with open arms

- warmly, eagerly, happily

The author was welcomed with open arms during his visit.

Elbow Idioms


elbow (someone) out of (something)

- to force or pressure someone to leave an office or position

The new manager got his new position by elbowing many people out of the way.

have elbow room

- to have enough space

We have much elbow room in our new house.

rub elbows (with someone)

- to work closely with someone, to associate with someone

I have been rubbing elbows with some very interesting people at work recently.

use some elbow grease

- to use some effort, to work hard to do something

The kitchen could use some elbow grease to make it clean again.

Finger Idioms


at one's fingertips

- within one's reach

I usually have my address book at my fingertips.

bite one's nails

- to bite one's fingernails because you are nervous or anxious

The girl was biting her nails as she waited for the speech contest to begin.

burn one`s fingers

- to be harmed by something, to suffer the consequences of one's actions

My father burned his fingers in the stock market and he does not want to invest money there again.

cross one`s fingers

- to cross two fingers of one hand to hope or wish for good luck

I crossed my fingers that I would get the job that I had applied for.

(someone's) fingerprints are on (something)

- an action or piece of work is typical of a particular person and they probably were involved in it

The fingerprints of our boss are on the plans to restructure our department.

hang on by one's fingernails

- to continue or manage to do something in a difficult situation

The man has much debt and is only hanging on by his fingernails.

have a finger in the pie

- to be involved in something, to have a role in something

The man has a finger in the pie of the new business.

have one's finger in too many pies

- to be involved in too many things (so you cannot do any of them well)

Our supervisor has her finger in too many pies and she is not able to do her job well.

have one's finger on the pulse

- to be aware of recent changes or developments in a particular situation or activity

Our supervisor has her finger on the pulse and knows what everybody is doing.

have (something) at one's fingertips

- to have something nearby and ready to use

I usually have a dictionary at my fingertips when I am reading a book.

keep one's finger's crossed

- to wish for good luck

I will keep my fingers crossed that I get the new job that I applied for.

keep one's finger on the pulse

- to be aware of recent changes or developments in a particular situation or activity

The manager keeps her finger on the pulse of the company and she knows everything.

lay a finger on (someone or something)

- to touch or bother someone or something

The teacher told the students not to lay a finger on the new computer.

lay the finger on (someone)

- to accuse someone of doing something, to identify someone as the person who did something

The store owner lay the finger on the boy after he stole the toy.

lift a finger

- to help as little as possible (usually used in the negative)

My niece will not lift a finger to help anyone.

point the finger (of blame) at (someone)

- to blame someone for doing something wrong, to identify someone as being guilty

The waitress pointed the finger of blame at the cook during the police investigation.

put one's finger on (something)

- to locate something precisely, to identify something as very important

I was able to put my finger on the problem and find someone to fix it.

put the finger on (someone)

- to accuse someone of doing something, to identify someone as the person who did something

The police put the finger on the young man as the main suspect for the crime.

slip through (someone's) fingers

- to get away from someone, to lose track of someone or something

The job opportunity slipped through my fingers which was very disappointing.
The sales receipt slipped through my fingers and I could not find it.

sticky fingers

- the habit of stealing things

The new woman at work has sticky fingers and is stealing things from her office.

work one`s fingers to the bone

- to work very hard

The woman worked her fingers to the bone in order to make enough money to feed her children.

wrap (someone) around one`s little finger

- to have complete control over someone, to manipulate someone

The woman has her boss wrapped around her little finger and she can do anything that she wants.

Fist Idioms


closefisted (with money)

- to not want to spend money, to be stingy with money

My uncle is very closefisted with money.

control (someone or something) with an iron fist

- to have strict and complete control over someone or a group of people or an organization

The manager controls the staff with an iron fist.

iron fist in a velvet glove

- kind and gentle on the outside (the velvet glove) but determined and ruthless on the inside (the iron fist)

The government committee used an iron fist in a velvet glove to get the information that they wanted.

rule (someone) with an iron fist

- to have strict and complete control over a person or a group of people

The leader of the small country rules the citizens with an iron fist.

tightfisted (with money)

- to not want to spend money, to be stingy with money

My friend is very tightfisted with money and he never likes to buy anything.

Hand Idioms


all hands on deck

- everyone must work together because they have a lot of work to do

The captain called for all hands on deck as the storm became stronger and stronger.

at hand

- easy to reach, nearby

There were no tools at hand so I could not fix the stove.

at the hands of (someone or something)

- depending on someone or something

We were at the hands of nature as we waited for the storm to end.

bite the hand that feeds you

- to harm someone who does good things for you

The girl will bite the hand that feeds her if she continues to complain about the help that her parents give her.

bound hand and foot

- to have one's hands and feet tied up

The bank manager was bound hand and foot by the bank robbers.

by the handful

- by the amount that one can measure in one handful

We were able to pick strawberries by the handful in the small field.

cannot see one's hand in front of one's face

- to be unable to see very far (usually because of darkness or fog)

I could not see my hands in front of my face because of the heavy rain.

catch (someone) red-handed

- to catch someone in the act of doing something wrong or bad

The teacher caught the boys red-handed after they wrote on the school wall.

caught with one's hand in the cookie jar

- to be caught doing something wrong or illegal, to be caught taking something (often money) that one should not take (just like a child could be caught taking cookies from a cookie jar when he or she should not)

The woman was caught with her hand in the cookie jar when we saw her stealing office supplies.

change hands

- to be sold or given to someone else

The small corner store has changed hands many times recently.

close at hand

- within reach, nearby

There were no restaurants close at hand when we decided to go for dinner.

come away empty-handed

- to return without anything

We came away from the department store empty-handed.

dirty one`s hands

- to hurt one's character or reputation, to do a bad or shameful thing

The politician dirtied his hands when he became involved in the land scandal.

dismiss (something) out of hand

- to decide without thinking that you will not accept an idea or argument or plan

The company dismissed the union's offer out of hand.

do (something) by hand

- to do something with one's hands rather than with a machine

The washing machine is broken so we have to do our clothes by hand.

eat out of (someone's) hand

- to do what someone wants you to do

I usually can get my supervisor to eat out of my hand.

everything one can get/lay his or her hands on

- to use everything of a particular type that you can find

We used everything that we could lay our hands on to build the small building.

fall into the wrong hands

- to discover or get something secret or dangerous that may be used in a way that harms people

The government does not want the new weapons to fall into the wrong hands.

a firm hand

- strict control of someone or something

The company uses a firm hand in managing their financial resources.

first hand

- by direct personal experience (you can see or experience or learn about something first hand)

We saw the car accident first hand when we were driving down the highway.

fold one's hands

- to bring one's hands together so that they are palm to palm with the fingers interlocking

The students folded their hands and sat quietly on their chairs.

force (someone's) hand

- to force a person to reveal his or her plans or strategies or secrets

Our lawyer forced the opposing lawyer's hand.

from hand to hand

- from one person to another person

We passed the dictionaries from hand to hand until everybody had one.

gain the upper hand (on someone or something)

- to gain a position that is superior or more advantageous than someone or something

The firefighters finally gained the upper hand on the forest fire.

get one's hands on (someone or something)

- to find someone or something (someone or something that may be difficult to find)

I need to get my hands on a new part for my computer printer.

get out of hand

- to become difficult or impossible to control

The party got out of hand so the school authorities decided to tell everyone to go home.

get the upper hand (on someone)

- to get into a position that is superior or more advantageous than someone else

The union was able to get the upper hand on the company.

give (someone) a big hand or give a big hand to/for (someone)

- to clap your hands for a speech or play or performance

The audience gave the musicians a big hand when they finished their performance.

give (someone) a free hand

- to allow someone to do something in the way that they choose

The senior managers give their employees a free hand to make their work schedule.

give (someone) a hand with (something)

- to help someone with something

I gave my friend a hand when he moved into his new apartment.

glad hand (someone)

- to give someone a friendly handshake, to give a warm greeting to someone

The politician spent the day glad handing the crowd at the shopping center.

go away empty-handed

- to depart with nothing

The woman went away empty-handed from the job interview.

go hand in hand (with something)

- to be closely related with something so that they must be considered together

The change in school hours goes hand in hand with the new policy regarding class sizes.

hand in glove (with someone)

- in close cooperation, in a close relationship or agreement

The new company policy goes hand in glove with the new manager.

hand in hand

- holding hands

The young couple walked hand in hand along the beach.

hand over fist

- fast and in large amounts

We have been making money hand over fist in our new store.

hand over hand

- moving one hand after the other

We climbed hand over hand up the side of the wall.

hand-to-hand combat

- fighting with one's hands without weapons

The two soldiers were doing hand-to-hand combat.

(one's) hands are tied

- one is prevented from doing something

My hands are tied at the moment and I cannot help my friend.

hands down

- easily, unopposed

The boy won the election hands down for the position of class president.

hands off (something)

- to leave something alone, to not interfere with something

We took a hands-off approach while dealing with the new employee.

have a free hand (to do something)

- to be granted complete control to do something

The teacher has a free hand to choose new textbooks for the class.

have a hand in (something)

- to be involved in doing something, to play a part in doing something

The school principal has a hand in the new cafeteria rules.

have clean hands

- to not be responsible for a crime, to be guiltless

The man has clean hands regarding the situation with the stolen goods.

have one's hand in the till

- to be stealing money from a company or organization

The sales clerk has had her hand in the till since she first started her job.

have one's hands full with (someone or something)

- to be busy or occupied with someone or something

The woman has her hands full with her three children.

have (someone's) blood on one's hands

- to be responsible for someone's death

The driver has the bicycle rider's blood on his hands.

have (someone) eating out of (the palm of) one's hand

- to have someone willing to do whatever you want him or her to do

The woman has her supervisor eating out of the palm of her hand.

have (something) in one's hands

- to have control of something or responsibility for something, to possess something

"When I have the documents in my hands, I will call you."

have (something) on one's hands

- to be burdened with something

I do not want to have the responsibility for the party on my hands.

have the upper hand (on someone)

- to have a position that is superior or more advantageous than someone else

My friend had the upper hand in our argument.

have time on one's hands

- to have much free time

I have much time on my hands so I will read a book.

heavy hand (of something)

- the great power that someone or something has over people

The heavy hand of the law is usually able to find people who commit a crime.

high-handed

- disregarding other's feelings, overbearing

The employer took a high-handed approach to the negotiations and they were not successful.

hold (someone's) hand

- to hold the hand of someone

The man held his son's hand as they crossed the street.

hold (someone's) hand

- to help someone in an unfamiliar or frightening situation

The manager had to hold the new employee's hand as the employee learned the new job.

in good hands

- in the safe and able care of someone

The stolen purse was in good hands after the police found it.

in hand

- under control

After several hours the riot police had the problems with the crowd in hand.

in hand

- in one's possession

The man arrived at the airport with much cash in hand.

in safe hands

- under the care of someone or an organization that you can trust and who will help you

The little girl is in safe hands now that she has arrived at her grandmother's house.

in the hands of (someone)

- a person or organization has control over something and decides what will happen

The court decision is now in the hands of the jury.

join hands

- to hold hands so that one person is holding the hand of another person

The children joined hands as they crossed the road.

keep one's hand in (something)

- to retain one's control of something, to continue doing something so that you remain involved in it

The animal trainer is trying to keep his hand in his work even though he has retired.

keep one's hands off (someone or something)

- to refrain from touching or handling someone or something

The man was told to keep his hands off his neighbor's dog.

know (someone or something) like the back/palm of one's hand

- to know someone or something very well

The taxi driver knows the city like the back of his hand.

lay one's hands on (someone or something)

- to find someone or something (that may be difficult to find)

If I can lay my hands on a screwdriver, I will fix the broken table.

leave (someone or something) in (someone's) hands

- to give someone control of someone or something

I plan to leave the party arrangements in my friend's hands.

lend (someone) a hand or lend a hand to (someone)

- to help someone with something

I will ask my friend to lend me a hand when I move.

live from hand to mouth

- to live on very little money

My friend has been living from hand to mouth since he lost his job.

lose one's grip

- to lose control of a situation

The young teacher seems to be losing her grip on the situation in her classroom.

many hands make light work

- a lot of help will make a job seem easy

Many hands make light work and having lots of people to help made the job easy.

near at hand

- easy to reach, nearby

If there is a grocery store near at hand, I will buy some milk.

off one`s hands

- no longer in one's care or possession

I would like to get my old bicycle off my hands so that I can buy a new one.

old hand at (doing something)

- someone who is experienced and very good at doing something

Our boss is an old hand at fixing computers.

on hand

- nearby, available, in one's possession

We did not have a screwdriver on hand so we could not fix the door.

on hand

- present

Our teacher is always on hand when we need someone to help us.

on the one hand

- from one side of an issue, from one point of view

On the one hand I like my supervisor but on the other hand I dislike her a lot.

on the other hand

- from another point of view, from the other side of an issue

I do not want to study tonight but on the other hand, I must study because I have a test tomorrow.

out of hand

- out of control

The party got out of hand so we called the police.

out of hand

- immediately and without consulting anyone, without delay

Our teacher dismissed our excuses out of hand.

pay (someone) a back-handed compliment

- to give someone a false compliment that is actually an insult

The man paid the host of the party a back-handed compliment.

pay (someone) a left-handed compliment

- to give someone a false compliment that is actually an insult

The service at the store was poor so the customer paid the clerk a left-handed compliment.

play into (someone`s) hands

- to do something that another person can use against you or can use to his or her advantage

If you become angry at someone, it will only play into his or her hands.

put one's hand to the plow

- to begin to do a big and important task

I put my hand to the plow in order to finish my essay before the weekend.

put one's hands on (something)

- to locate and acquire something

I have not been able to put my hands on a good cookbook yet.

putty in (someone's) hands

- very willing to do what someone else thinks or wants

The woman is putty in our hands and we can get everything that we want from her.

raise a hand

- to do something, to do one's share, to help

I am angry at my friend because he did not raise a hand to help me clean the kitchen.

raise a hand against (someone or something)

- to threaten to strike someone or something

The teacher never raises a hand against her students.

rap (someone's) knuckles

- to punish someone slightly

The judge decided to rap the young boy's knuckles for his crime.

read the handwriting on the wall

- to guess or anticipate what will happen by observing small hints and clues

I have read the handwriting on the wall and I believe that soon I will not have a job.

reject (something) out of hand

- to decide without thinking not to accept an idea or argument or plan

The company rejected the union's demands out of hand.

the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing

- there is not good communication in an organization so one part of the organization does not know what the other part is doing

The assistant manager knows nothing about what the manager is doing in the company. It seems that the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing.

shake hands on (something)

- to shake someone's hand as a sign of agreement about something

The politicians shook hands on the agreement to build a new hospital.

shake hands with (someone)

- to greet someone by taking his or her hand and shaking it

The two men shook hands when they met for the first time.

a show of hands

- a vote for something which is done by people raising their hands

The students voted by a show of hands to go to the park after school.

show one's hand

- to reveal one's intentions to someone

I tried hard not to show my hand during the meeting about my new job.

sit on one's hands

- to do nothing, to fail to help

Our supervisor sat on his hands and refused to help us with our problem.

sit on their hands

- an audience refuses to applaud

The members of the audience sat on their hands after the performance by the singer.

take a hand in (something)

- to help plan or do something

The man will take a hand in designing the new building.

take (someone or something) in hand

- to take control of a situation and improve it or deal with it

Our teacher took the situation in hand when the class became too noisy.

take (someone or something) off (someone's) hands

- to remove or look after someone or something so that the other person does not have to deal with it

My friend decided to take our old sofa off my hands.
The girl took the child off the mother's hands for the afternoon.

take the law into one's own hands

- to act as a judge and jury for someone who has done something wrong

The soldiers took the law into their own hands when they entered the town.

throw one's hands up in horror

- to be shocked, to raise one's hands in fright

The girl threw her hands up in horror when she saw the injured dog.

tie (someone's) hands

- to prevent someone from doing something

The principal tied our hands and we were not able to start the project.
Our hands were tied and we could do nothing about the problem.

throw up one`s hands (in despair or frustration)

- to stop trying, to admit that one cannot succeed

I threw up my hands in frustration when I was unable to find the manager.

try one`s hand at (something)

- to make an inexperienced attempt at something, to try something

I tried my hand at golf last summer but I did not like it.

turn one's hand to (something)

- to start to do something that is different from what you usually do

After we finished cleaning the kitchen we turned our hand to the other rooms.

walk hand-in-hand (with someone)

- to walk while holding hands with someone

The couple walked hand-to-hand down the street.

wash one`s hands of (someone or something)

- to refuse to be responsible for something, to refuse to be involved with something, to stop one's association with someone

I want to wash my hands of the problems with the new secretary.

win (something) hands down

- win something easily, win something without a doubt

The new mayor won the election hands down.

with both hands tied behind one's back

- easily, even under a severe handicap

I did my science project with both hands tied behind my back.

with hat in hand

- with humility

The boy went to his father with hat in hand to ask for some money.

with one hand tied behind one's back

- easily, even under a severe handicap

The project was hard to manage because I had to operate with one hand tied behind my back.

work hand in hand (with someone)

- to work closely together with someone

The school is working hand in hand with the police department in order to solve the road problems.

wring one's hands

- to worry and be upset about something and not be able to do anything about it

The woman stayed up most of the night wringing her hands while she waited for her son to come home.

wring (someone's) hand

- to hold someone's hand tightly when you greet or say good-bye to him or her

The man stood wringing my hand when I met him.

you've got to hand it to (someone)

- someone has done something well (although you may not approve of the things that he or she has done)

"You've got to hand it to our friend. He is always able to raise enough money for his projects."

Palm Idioms


cross (someone's) palm with silver

- to give money to someone for a service

We crossed the hotel clerk's palm with silver to get a good room.

grease (someone`s) palm

- to pay a person for something, to bribe someone

We had to grease the palm of the customs agent to get our goods into the country.

have (someone) eating out of (the palm of) one's hand

- to have someone willing to do whatever you want him or her to do

The woman has her supervisor eating out of the palm of her hand.

itchy/itching palm

- a greedy character, a desire for money or tips

The police officer had an itching palm and received much money from criminals before he was arrested.

know (someone or something) like the back/palm of one's hand

- to know someone or something very well

The taxi driver knows the city like the back of his hand.

palm off (something) or palm (something) off

- to sell or give something away by pretending that it is more valuable than it is

The man palmed off a television set that does not work.

Thumb Idioms


all thumbs

- to be awkward and clumsy, to have a difficulty in fixing things or working with one's hands

The man is all thumbs and he can never fix something without making it worse.

give (someone or something) the thumbs up

- to be in favor of someone or something

The city gave the music festival organizers the thumbs up for the music festival.

green thumb

- a talent for gardening, the ability to make things grow

The man has a green thumb and has a very beautiful garden.

rule of thumb

- a basic or accepted pattern or rule

It is a rule of thumb in our company that senior managers get bigger offices.

stick out like a sore thumb

- to be obvious and visible

The man sticks out like a sore thumb when he wears his orange hat.

thumb a lift/ride

- to get a ride from a passing motorist, to ask for a ride from a passing motorist by putting your thumb in the air

We thumbed a ride when our car had a flat tire.

thumb through (something)

- to look quickly through a book or magazine or newspaper

I thumbed through the garden catalogue at the store.

thumbnail sketch

- a short or small picture or description

The police made a thumbnail sketch of the bank robber.

thumbs up on (someone or something)

- to be in favor of someone or something

I waited to hear if it would be thumbs up on our new policy at work.

turn thumbs down on (something)

- to disapprove or reject something, to say no to something

The building committee turned thumbs down on our plans to change the office.

twiddle one`s thumbs

- to do nothing, to be idle

The girl twiddled her thumbs all week and was not able to pass her exam.

under one`s thumb

- to be obedient to someone, to be controlled by someone

The woman has her husband under her thumb. He has no freedom at all.

Wrist Idioms


a slap on the wrist

- a light punishment for doing something wrong

The young man received a slap on the wrist for his crime.

























Idiom Quizzes - Arm, Hand and Finger

    Choose an idiom to replace the expression in the brackets:

  1. The man is (very awkward) and he makes things worse when he tries to fix them.

    (a) living from hand to mouth (b) high-handed (c) all thumbs (d) close at hand



  2. I (hope) that our team will win the championship again this year.

    (a) am crossing my fingers (b) am greasing my palm (c) am rapping my knuckles (d) am losing my grip



  3. My friend has (a talent for gardening) and grows very beautiful flowers.

    (a) a shot in the arm (b) a green thumb (c) an iron fist in a velvet glove (d) a glad hand



  4. We did not have any milk (available) so we could not drink any coffee.

    (a) hands down (b) on the one hand (c) on hand (d) under my thumb



  5. I would (give any amount of money) to get my old job back.

    (a) bite the hand that feeds me (b) come away empty-handed (c) get my fingers burned (d) give my right arm



  6. My sister never (did any work) around the house when she was a child.

    (a) played into my hands (b) lifted a finger (c) got out of hand (d) had her finger in too many pies



  7. I have been working (very hard) trying to save money to go to Europe.

    (a) under my thumb (b) off my hands (c) my fingers to the bone (d) with open arms



  8. The city officials welcomed the group of foreign businessmen (warmly).

    (a) under their thumb (b) arm in arm (c) close at hand (d) with open arms



  9. I have my boss (under my control) so I can usually get my vacation when I want.

    (a) under my thumb (b) with hat in hand (c) off my hands (d) hand over fist



  10. My sister's husband has been making money (quickly and easily) since he opened his new business.

    (a) near at hand (b) hand over fist (c) first hand (d) high-handed



  11. The voters (rejected) the proposal to raise the tax on gasoline.

    (a) showed their hand on (b) turned thumbs down on (c) took a hand in (d) laid hands on



  12. If I can (get hold of) a video camera, I will take a video of the wedding.

    (a) palm off (b) turn thumbs down on (c) lay my hands on (d) wash my hands of



  13. My sister (attempted) cooking a pasta dish but it was not successful.

    (a) turned thumbs down on (b) waited hand and foot on (c) tried her hand at (d) raised a hand at



  14. I want to get the old television (out of my care) so that I can have more room in our apartment.

    (a) out of hand (b) wrapped around my little finger (c) under my thumb (d) off my hands



    Return to Main Index